UCLA agrees to $73 million settlement over alleged sex abuse by campus gynecologist

WESTWOOD, LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- UCLA and Dr. James Heaps have agreed to a $73 million class action settlement that will settle claims brought by women that Heaps allegedly abused and assaulted while working at UCLA medical facilities, it was announced Monday.

The agreement, which still needs approval by a judge, also requires UCLA to ensure stronger oversight procedures for identification, prevention and reporting of sexual misconduct.

Originally filed in 2019, the lawsuit accuses the doctor of assault, abuse and harassment and accuses UCLA of failing to protect his patients after first becoming aware of the misconduct.

The entirety of the $73 million will go toward compensating more than 5,500 women who received treatment from Heaps at either the Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center from 1986-2018, the school's student health center from 1983-2010, or Heaps' university medical office from 2014-18. The settlement structure provides survivors a choice on how they want to participate, delivering relief in a swifter and more private manner than protracted litigation.

Former patients of ex-UCLA gynecologist detail alleged abuse, call for independent investigation
EMBED More News Videos

UCLA star gymnast Jeanette Antolin and other former patients of ex-UCLA gynecologist Dr. James Heaps urged the UC Board of Regents to conduct an independent investigation into Heaps, who has been accused of sexually abusing patients.

"The trauma that I have been carrying for far too long is one that thousands of other women around the country also share,'' said a former patient of Heaps and member of the class. "I am relieved that we have reached a resolution that provides a way for other women to come forward in a confidential manner.''

UCLA Health said the incidents described in the lawsuit "reflect alleged conduct that is contrary to our values. We thank the individuals who came forward and hope that this settlement ... is one small step forward for the patients involved.''

The school added that an "independent review, conducted by a special committee on behalf of the University of California Board of Regents, examined how we respond to allegations of sexual misconduct by medical professionals and was completed earlier this year. UCLA Health, the UCLA Ashe Student Health Center and UC system leadership have already taken many steps to address the issues discussed in the report. UCLA is committed to policies and procedures to protect patients.''

The university said its goal "is to provide the best patient experience with every patient, every encounter, every time. As we move forward, we remain committed to providing top quality care that respects the dignity of every patient.''

The behavior alleged in the lawsuit includes sexual abuse during examinations, recommending unnecessary procedures and overly frequent examinations to create additional opportunities for abuse, making inappropriate and sexually suggestive comments and removing patients' clothing or gowns without consent.

The agreement is subject to approval by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner in Los Angeles federal court.
Copyright © 2022 by City News Service, Inc. All Rights Reserved.